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Wild At Heart movie review: Like Father, Like Son

Wild Bill Ketelhut provides the "blog" to this anti-blog

Wild At Heart

Starting this week at the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak is the Japanese movie "Like Father, Like Son" (not to be confused with the awful Kirk Cameron/Dudley Moore film of the same name). Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda (of which I loved his 1998 movie "After Life"), this film centers around the question 'what would you do if you found you child was not your own?'. Our main character is Ryota, a self-made man who got where he is through hard work and is raising his son, 6 year old Keita, to become like him. Keita is going to a special school, taking piano lessons and following a home regimen meant to instill that "winning" spirit. The news that Keita is not his real child puts Ryota in a real dilemma as a father.

His wife Midori and the other couple, a local shop owner and his wife provide good performances but it is really Ryota that is the focal point. His decision between choosing between his son of the last 6 years and his own blood are where the real emotional baggage comes in. We also examine Ryota's relationship with his own father as well as how he acts around both kids. One scene where he is explaining to his newly found son to call him father is particularly emotional as the child keeps asking why he should as Ryota starts to wear himself down insisting on this point. Ryota sees the other family as inept and offers to take care of both children, which is very insulting to them. We see their household is more nurturing despite some early concerns the other family might be more in it for the money the hospital might may. That is the subtle misdirecting the director gives us as he opens his canvas on both families. The poor money family is teased as being greedy but turns out to be truly loving while the rich family which seems it could provide everything needed turns out to be more dysfunctional emotionally.

As the film progresses, the real power is watching Ryota finally coming to grips with the fact that he might not be a good father and his attempts to finally better himself and in some ways repent make us interested. The film doesn't break any new ground but shows great heart. The kids do superb jobs showing the needed emotions and the other adults really ground the film and bring much needed wit and warmth. If you want a film that showcases how important being a good father is, this is an excellent film to watch. Because of that, I give the film a B+.